The Bird Poop Scam
This scam is alive and well in Buenos Aires.
The scene: A quiet street, maybe just off the main tourist drag with not many folk about.
The action: You feel a liquid splash on you. It's slimy, and there is an awful lot of it. It smells too. You are the victim of Argentina's largest bird with a bowel problem perhaps?
The Rescue: Fortunately, there are heroic bystanders. They have wipes available! And water! What luck!
These well dressed Good Samaritans (who have appeared seemingly out of nowhere) are ready to relieve you of your contamination. Clean you up, and get you on their way.
Beware! What you will be relieved of is your possessions, or cash, as the helpful bystanders help themselves under the guise of helping you. If you politely decline their offers of assistance, you can escape (relatively) unscathed. The slime does wash out. Make your way into a restaurant and avail yourself of a bathroom.
This happened to us last February, a block from the San Telmo Antique Market. Fortunately, we were awake to the scam and waved the miscreants on their way. The washing machine in our apartment got a workout though!
- Budget Travel
Buenos Aires Warning!
Fellow travelers, unfortunately Buenos Aires is NOT what it once was. The city is very dangerous now, "the next Venezuela". I know, I see the wonderful reviews from many. Some personal experiences- widest street in the world, Nueve De Julio very close to the Obolisco, mid-afternoon, eating at sidewalk cafe with a friend, from behind a knife was put to my throat demanding my watch. Another friend visiting here had his short term rental apartment with security below broken into, safe opened, jewelry, cash, documents stolen. Another, who has been coming here every year since 1979 and did no damage to her rental, had the owner keep her several thousand dollar deposit after 4 months for "damages" again there were none. She will never return. Another Argentian couple we know were robbed at gun point in front of one of the, if not the top hotel here, The Alvear Palace, demanding and getting their jewelry and cash and her purse with CC's , documents, etc. Another friend, after leaving a dinner party at my home, was robbed of EVERYTHING from cash, cell phone, All clothes and shoes. He ran away in his underware! I live in one of the nicest neighborhoods, Puerto Madero. We have armed police in front of our complex. Another had a group of young thugs put a knife to his ribs and have him empty his pockets into one of the gangs hat, broad daylight on busy Avenida Santa Fe. In Recoleta, another nice area, an entire apartment building was invaded by a group of 8, going door to door robbing with guns and knives. When tourists have cells or cameras out, especially in the busy Florida & Lavalle shopping area, kids blow glitter in your eyes and bolt with your item. The police see nothing, why should they, they get their cut. The most amazing personal experience , I was having a business meeting inside the Starbucks at Alto Palermo Shopping Mall. My associates laptop was stolen by a Starbucks employee! She quickly speed walked into the kitchen area. I tried to pursue and was stopped by the manager and security. Went out to get police. They came. Said they didn't have the "authority" to go in back after a quick conference with the manager. The security cams "weren't working". Again, the police got their cut. They were all in on it. After, an elderly Argentinian woman, pretending to read a paper, whispered to me, "that this happens all the time in here". The police here are extremely corrupt, especially the Policia Federal. The kids here walk down the street huffing glue out of bags and a very cheap drug has hit "paco", made of cocaine, crushed glass and rat poison, causing permenant brain damage quickly! I could go on and on about the violence and escalated rates of crime and murder here which are NOT reported or publicized, especially to tourists. Next, the President/Dictator, Kristina Kirshner, went on the tele spewing anti-North American sentiments and condoned an anti-N.A. rally where they burned many U.S.A. flags and a huge Uncle Sam. They have had many other such protests since, all sanctioned, as any group protesting must receive permission first. Sure, you can come, do tour groups, etc. and for a quick trip be reasonably safe. The problem is the economy. In 2001 over night, Argentina went from the "Paris of South America" and the wealthiest Latin American country to the poorest. Sadly, the children who had so much all their lives, suddenly had nothing. This has created a generation of borderline sociopaths, liars, thieves... My advice, stay away. There are many other safer, better travel destinations. Why am I here 6 years later, business. Yes, I have put in for a transfer. This is again, not the place it once was. The peso has crashed again. Recently, 16 pesos to 1 US Dollar. When I first transfered here it was just under 4 to 1. Families do not have food to put on their tables, the people are desperate. Desperate = Dangerous. It is a very sad situation, but it is the current reality. I have lived/traveled all over the world. My advice, don't put yourself, wife, kids, loved ones at risk to visit this country. Hopefully, things will improve, but I don't see it happening any time soon. I know, share your wonderful trip you had here with me. I don't doubt you did. Your hotel, short term rental agency, tourist agency, etc. won't share these things, not good for business. Come, stay awhile, and good luck!
Mobile phones - Telefonos celulares
In Buenos Aires there are 3 main companies to rent a cellular: Movistar, Personal and Claro
http://www.movistar.com.ar/ http://www.personal.com.ar/ http://www.claro.com.ar/
You must know that you must bring a triband cellular to be able to work with our GSM Cards.
En Buenos Aires hay 3 grandes companias de telefonos celulares para alquilar: Movistar, Personal y Claro. http://www.movistar.com.ar/ http://www.personal.com.ar/ http://www.claro.com.ar/
Tienen que saber que para que sus teléfonos funcionen con nuestras tarjetas GSM tienen que ser tribanda.
There are often political protests happening in Buenos Aires, especially in the Plaza de Mayo and surrounding area. I saw two protests in the Plaza de Mayo while I was in BsAs - one was small and didn't take up much space or disrupt anyone, but the other was huge. While I was out shopping downtown, I saw big crowds of people with signs and flags walking towards the Plaza, and I followed them in to see what was happening. The plaza was getting packed as people were coming in. Later, I saw some people throwing firecrackers in one part of the plaza, and other people firing rockets in the air in another part, so I decided to leave. Living in Montreal, I remembered the student protests in 2012 where some students were seriously injured because of stray explosives and projectiles, so I didn't want to be the unfortunate person caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
My Spanish professor from my home university knew I was in Buenos Aires (she is from Uruguay but has been to BsAs many times), and when my mother told her about this, my prof was relieved that I had left the protest - apparently, these protests tend to get violent and people often get hurt.
Buenos Aires assault and attempted robbery
Robbed in broad daylight in Palermo Soho. A guy tackled me from behind and threw me to the ground. He ripped my watch off my hand and ran down the street. A man chased him and a bunch of citizens tackled him. I was detained by the police for a long time but managed to get my watch back. Lessons learned. Don't wear any jewelry. They trued the stain scam on my husband in a public restroom. They spray your shirt then try to "help" you by pulling your wallet out. My husband didn't carry his wallet in his back pocket so they didn't succeed.
Attacked and Robbed
I was on a guided tour with a group of 11 people in supposedly the safest area in Buenos Aires. The park by the Memorial Tower; right across the street from the Plaza Hotel. We were staked out by a group of 4 thugs that attacked us from the back and stole my Rolex watch off my wrist. There were 2 on motorcycles and 1 on bicycle and 1 the attacker that passed off the jewelry before we could recover it! The guys in my group did take the attacker to the ground and we were able to put him in jail, but his attorney beat up to the police station to try to get him out. It is a horrible situation!!! I personally talked to 7 more people that had been robbed of their watches in the same week. Then heard on the plane home that the pilot had been stabbed and robbed in the last week!!!! I will never travel there again!! I do hope this post will help to keep others from becoming a victim of the rampant crime happening in Buenos Aires!!
Money issues - ATMs and American dollars
Even though the ATMs supposedly give the option of withdrawing Argentine pesos or American dollars, they do not dispense dollars anymore (dollars are restricted for purchase and sale). You can only withdraw pesos, and dollars are not available at banks either.
If you are required (or encouraged) to pay a deposit or other fees in American dollars (for example, for some study-abroad or work-abroad programs, you might have to pay a deposit for your apartment), have the correct amount ready in cash before you even arrive in Argentina. Otherwise, you'll have a hard time getting your hands on the dollars you'll need.
The only place you can exchange dollars for pesos is in the airport, and only in the Banco de la Nación booth (not in ATMs). Also, if you take a day/weekend trip to Uruguay, you can exchange dollars there (for Uruguayan pesos).
Returning home with leftover Argentine Pesos
I had about $100 CAD worth of Argentine pesos left after my trip, and planned on exchanging them for Canadian dollars after returning home. When I arrived in the Toronto airport (right before my flight to Montreal), I went to the currency exchange booth and they told me they can't exchange pesos. Apparently, they are controlled and cannot be exchanged in Canada. I asked if they could exchange them for American dollars, and they said no to that too. I figure I can keep them and bring them on my next trip, but it can be frustrating not to be able to exchange money when you're expecting to be able to.
If you have a lot of leftover pesos and no plans to return to Argentina soon, exchange them for your currency of choice before leaving Argentina. If your country's currency is not available, then exchange them for American dollars. USDs are easy to exchange anywhere so you'll be able to exchange those for your own currency once you get home, even if you have to pay small fees for exchanges.
- Budget Travel
- Study Abroad
Targeted for Thefts
My husband and I were targeted twice. One time in the subway. My smartphone was stolen from my fanny pack. The thief evidently watched what compartment I put it in. He came and sat besides me on the train, pretended to cough badly and to vomit while stealing my smart phone. He got off the train at the next stop pretending to keep vomiting. I then immediately realized that one of my fanny pack's zippers was open and the smart phone stolen.
The second time we were targeted while walking on the street. Something was spilled on us from above and 2 people (a man and a woman) started to clean us with their tissues. When the lady asked my husband, 'where are you from, sir?', I remembered the warning that I read from a guide and politely refused the help. The guide had described this method as a way thieves/criminals are using to steal stuff from your pockets.
Since then we avoided walking and traveling on our own.
Your bags safety-airports
At the airports you often see a guy with a machine that offers to wrap your bag in plastic wrap. To deter some who might have the opportunity from opening your bags. Some friends reported some items missing as a result of coming into Ezeiza. I personally had no problems, but it seemed like a worthwhile investment. It was quite cheap.
BA, the usual and rough sidewalks
We just returned from a trip which started in Santiago, through Bariloche to a week in Buenos Aires. In general, everyone we met was fantastic and more concerned about our welfare and safety than we were. However, some things to note: at 2 am the police go home. If you are out roaming the streets after hours, take taxis, travel in groups and be cautious because help is not easily available. Follow the local customs: Ladies, take either a small bag with only your essentials in it, or use a purse that is held high under the arm and has a zipper. No extra pockets, flaps, etc. If you set your purse down, make sure it is under the table, tucked away, next to a wall, and out of reach of a grab. Don't open your whole inner purse to take out your wallet - know what is in your wallet, reach in, take out what you need quickly and precisely and zip it back up. Keep your valuables in a safe. You sometimes need a passport for identification - like for buying tickets - but it is usually enough to know your number. Carry a photocopy if you need to remember. Locals are worried about individuals who are out of control on drugs. They say there are regular violent murders by people who are drug-sick. What I saw was a very clean, orderly city (we stayed in Palermo SoHo) so I'm not sure if this is in other areas, but I trust the locals to know what they are talking about. On a more everyday level, tipping is highly confusing. 10% seems to be the standard, but in addition, some restaurants include the tip (servicio incluyo) and others do not. The locals say "use your eyes" as they find it confusing, too. We asked, and no-one seemed put out that we were asking. Note that we did not find a single instance where you could add your tip if you paid by credit card, so carry sufficient cash for tipping and make sure you aren't double paying (servicio incluyo plus tip). Taxi drivers are almost insulted if you tip, but since small bills and coins are in short supply, they seem quite happy to settle the difference by rounding up, leaving them a small amount. for example, on a taxi bill of 14.63 (ARP), if you only have a ten and a five, you can say "keep the change" and everyone agrees that is the most sensible thing to do. There is no loss of face. The only place we actually got ripped off was by a clerk in the subway station where we bought our tickets. She refused to give us the correct price. Two young girls also pressed up close while I was buying the tickets, almost touching me even though the station was almost empty. Finally, be warned that sidewalks are maintained by the individual property owners facing the streets and are very rough and uneven. The surfaces change every few steps. Lighting is often also poor at night and the cars and motorcycles cut very close to the curb and drive as fast as they can. After all this, have fun! It is a great city.
- Food and Dining
The best way to move around Buenos Aires is by Taxi. There are thousands of taxis in the streets at any hour. You can hail a taxi anywhere, not just at taxi stands. When you see a taxi with a red light on in the windshield, it means it is available. Taxis are very inexpensive for tourists. You will never spend more than $10-15 usd if you travel within the city. There were several problems with unauthorized taxis that scammed tourists, so MAKE SURE you pick a taxi with the “RADIO TAXI” sign, and the official stickers on the windshield!
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
Increased pricing for outdoor seating
Be sure to look at the menu closely or ask the wait staff if there is additional cost to eat outside at a cafe that has sidewalk tables. It could be substantial. However the cost is different at each location and some do not have an extra charge at all.
In the photo below, the price for outdoor seating in on the right column. Each item has an additional cost, not just one flat fee!
- Family Travel
- Food and Dining
- Budget Travel
Beware of Thieves in Buenos Aires
My husband and I travelled to Lima, Cusco, Puno (Peru), La Paz (Bolivia), Iguaçu Falls, Buenos Aires (Argentina), Montevideo (Uruguay) and Santiago (Chile) in September and October 2011. I felt safe in all the cities except for Buenos Aires where I was targeted twice. We were walking around Plaza de Mayo when a man and two women attempted to rob us. The man (behind) sprayed us with something that looked like bird poop then two women (ahead) tried to wipe if off while at the same time trying to get into our pockets. They didn't get anything.
Another time I was by myself on Florida Street. I had a backpack on with my hat, map and ereader in it. The backpack was secured with a carabiner and the ereader was attached to a carabiner at the bottom on my bag. A man bumped me so hard I almost fell. When I righted myself three women came up behind me. I felt a tug on my pack and turned around. I was sandwiched between the man and women and couldn't escape so I stopped and leaned against the wall. They left but once I started walking they were on me again. One of the women (wore a black shawl over her coat) was very aggressive and grabbed my bag before I entered the Pacifica mall where there were security guards. They didn't get anything.
All seven thieves were indigenous, around 30 years old and wore black clothes.
With these attacks and the recent killings of French tourists in Argentina, I won't be returning to that country.
a couple approach you. "Probre sito" and indicate that you have gunk squirted on your trousers on your wallet side. The woman pulls out a tissue and starts to clean your trousers, in my case sheperding me into a bus shelter. She then moves around your back while the guy continues to clean your trousers. The woman at ths stage has pulled out a bottle of water to help clean you up - but then she spills some water on your shirt at the same point that the guy is kneeling down beside your pocket. While you are reacting to the spilt water on your shirt, the guy has your wallet out of your pocket without you feeling a thing!
Fortunately I saw my wallet at that point, recovered it, said thank you and walked off.
I suspect their technique is not to be violent, but I suspect that if I had not seen my wallet in that split second, I doubt that I would have seen it again!
Take care! Especially in streets with few people.